Clients rush for appointments as hair salons and tattoo parlors reopen

Pompton Lakes resident Jonelle Gonzalez is finally getting her hair done after weeks of frustration. She booked the first appointment at Dina’s Kiss and Makeup salon in Secaucus on the first day New Jersey permitted personal service businesses to reopen. Clients filled the shop to its newly-limited capacity.

“I had greys, I had roots, and you know, there’s nothing I can do with my hair so I had to wait,” Gonzalez said. “So, yeah, I was pretty excited to be here. I even have my nail appointment today. I was not wasting today.”

It’s a very different experience. Clients must get their temperatures taken, must wear masks and wash their hands. They fill out COVID health questionnaires. And even though New Jersey’s infection rate continues to decline, some people still felt nervous.

“It’s a little scary to do even this. This is a big step for me,” said Pam Kolar, a Secaucus resident. “I’m just afraid of it spreading even further. When you look at the protests and all that, that was all frightening for me.”

The expanded Phase 2 rules list salons, massage parlors, tattoo shops and day spas among business allowed to reopen Monday with strict guidelines. Psychologists note that even with new, anti-viral health standards it’ll be tough for some folks to venture back out.

“And it’s plain just fear that they might become sick. So I think a good strategy there is to really follow the governor’s recommendations for safety and to work through that fear of going out,” said Dr. Peter Bolo, chair of the Overlook Medical Center Department of Psychiatry.

Despite reservations, the salon’s been swamped by calls for appointments. They’re booked.

“People that didn’t have an appointment in the book, they have to wait basically until August,” said hair stylist Carmela Losurdo.

While clients may get a little off the top, this new setup definitely slices a hefty chunk off the bottom line for owners and staff.

There are 30-40% fewer appointments available at Dina’s because the shop removed some station chairs and blocked off shampoo sinks, to maintain social distancing. That means stylists can’t do a separate haircut while another client’s color processes.

“We’re going to be working even longer hours. And we’re probably not going to be make the same revenue we were making before because we’re not allowed to take the same amount of clients,” said stylist Mallory DeFazio.

“It definitely hurts the profit margin. We are operating at a lower capacity. But at this point we are happy to be doing anything, so we will take whatever we can get,” said owner Dina DeBari.

It’s the same story at Circle of Fire Tattoo in Wayne where walk-ins used to be welcome, but not anymore. It’s appointment-only, with enhanced safety requirements that forced the shop to cut back from a dozen daily clients to about eight. Plus, they’re paying a premium for personal protective equipment. But business is brisk.

“Some of us are scheduled past August already which is great. So we’re hitting the ground running, which is awesome,” said owner Mark James.

Shop owners say they’re working with a whole new business pattern that’ll take some getting used to.